|“I swim as fast and as hard as I can, for as long as I can, and the sea takes the rest.”
— Ben Randall (Kevin Costner),
I’ll bet you wish you still had your webbed feet sometimes, don’t you, K-Cos?
Nary a year has gone by in which your face, as kind and warm as a golden retriever’s, has been denied us onscreen. You graced us in real life on August 11, when you returned to Dyersville, Iowa (for the first time since Field of Dreams wrapped), with your rock band, like a regular Dennis Quaid. Denny Davies, Beau Burroughs, Frank Farmer and Stephen Simmons constitute your alliterative alter egos. You’ve been a bodyguard, a boat-builder, and a merry bandit. But most of all, Kevin Costner, you are a man who is not afraid to show his butt, and I respect that.
You’ve only been back in the water half as many times as James Cameron (give it up, man!) — which is still a lot. Somehow you were overlooked for a cameo in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, but with The Guardian, your new film about a washed-up Coast Guard rescue swimmer, about to hit theaters, now seems as good a time as any to relish the archetypes of Costner. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1)Water Costner 2) Baseball Costner (Sports Costner, for you Tin Cup whiners), 3) Western Costner, 4) Camelot (JFK) Costner, and, of course, 5) Future Costner.
(This is total “Not Another Costner Movie” material, so I hope you’re taking notes.)
Now, the aforementioned Costners can overlap. Imagine, if you will, a Venn diagram of Costner. If one circle is Western Costner, and the other is Future Costner, then the overlapping sliver would be The Postman. Water Costner + Future Costner = Waterworld. (OK, so it’s never just Future Costner, is it?) And it goes without saying that Washed-Up Costner is pretty much across the board.
While his political characters are somewhat sparse, there’s no denying Costner will be remembered for his roles in the Kennedy-centric films Thirteen Days and JFK. (Speaking of which, does the cast of JFK seem overcompensatory to anyone else?) Anyway, these days, Crash Davis’s “I believe Oswald acted alone” line in Bull Durham seems a prescient nod to the then-coming Camelot Costner.
If Harry Potter is “The Boy Who Lived,” Kevin Costner is “The Boy Who Swam.” First submerged in 1995 with Waterworld — a movie I have yet to watch without falling asleep — and redunked in 1999’s Message in a Bottle — a movie I have yet to watch without crying — Kev, our little mariner, was the perfect choice for The Guardian, in which Washed-Up Water Costner trains “the next generation” of rescue swimmers (including Ashton Kutcher). That makes the score Cameron 6, Costner 3, for those of you who are keeping up. (No James, we haven’t forgotten Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.)
Costner’s directorial debut, Dances with Wolves (which isn’t worth watching after Two Socks dies, if you ask me) brought him two Oscars. Although it wasn’t his first Western, it did, perhaps, add to his affection for the open range. Preceded by Silverado and succeeded by Wyatt Earp (“The longer, more boring one,” as my mother would say), The Postman, and Open Range. Oh, and fuck it, The Untouchables plays like a Western too.
Kevin Costner may worship the West, but when it really comes down to it, the immortal face of Costner is Baseball Costner. Indeed, Kevin Costner has done more baseball-themed films than any other actor. Whether Irish twins, like Bull Durham (1988) and Field of Dreams (1989), or re-mounding years later in For Love of the Game (1999), or as an ex-baseball player in 2005’s The Upside of Anger, K.C. loves to play ball, and we love to watch.
But schtick comes with a price — lazy advertising. Case in point: Boldly printed on For Love of the Game’s DVD case is the hook, “If you liked Field of Dreams, then you’ll love For Love of the Game.” I thought that formula was reserved for drugstore designer-fragrance rip-offs (“If you like Poison, then you’ll love Death”).
Only pre-schtick Baseball Costner resides in most of our Halls of Fame, I’m afraid. Though released back-to-back, Bull Durham was a mildly-raunchy sex comedy by today’s standards, while Field of Dreams was a “Daddy’s just got something in his eye” drama. When I think of Bull Durham, I remember Crash taunting rookie Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins, barely younger than Costner at the time) by calling him “meat.” When I think of Field of Dreams, I recall one of the most ubiquitous movie lines ever. “If you build it, he will come” resides in the pantheon of oft-parodied blockbuster quotes like, “Houston, we have a problem,” “I’m king of the world,” and, more recently, “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
We can’t quit you, Kevin. We fly in the face of reason, of bad acting and writing. Why? In the hopes that Rumor Has It… isn’t an indication of forthcoming Pathological Genealogical Fetishist Costners. And because you’re just so damn fucking likeable. You’ve enshrouded yourself in the sentimental romance of baseball, the Old West, Camelot, the sea, and the future. It’s a distinctively American, almost religious romanticism, and maybe that’s why, despite Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, you will remain forever beloved.
(I’m really looking forward to hearing you refer to Ashton Kutcher as “meat.” Just once?)